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Labour Research Service & Gender at Work 1. Women’s Empowerment, Gender Equality and Labour Rights: Transforming the Terrain Solidarity Centre Conference.

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Presentation on theme: "Labour Research Service & Gender at Work 1. Women’s Empowerment, Gender Equality and Labour Rights: Transforming the Terrain Solidarity Centre Conference."— Presentation transcript:

1 Labour Research Service & Gender at Work 1

2 Women’s Empowerment, Gender Equality and Labour Rights: Transforming the Terrain Solidarity Centre Conference " The Gender at Work Action Learning Process with 4 South African Trade Unions ” Labour Research Service & Gender at Work 2 Presentation 31 July 2013

3  Women’s empowerment, gender equality and labour rights: features of the South African terrain Labour Research Service & Gender at Work 3

4 Desperate search for work with official unemployment rate 25.6% of those actively seeking employment and an unofficial rate of anything between 36.5%– 40% Very high levels of sexual violence in all spheres of life – resulting in high levels of trauma Very few practical demonstrations of a commitment to gender equality on the part of employers and government in a context of relatively progressive legislation Women in trade unions continue to struggle for gender equality – even in the context of what appears to be a backlash Labour Research Service & Gender at Work 4

5  Organising women in different sectors – backdrop to our case studies Labour Research Service & Gender at Work 5

6 Retail – low paid, contract and short term work with on-going threat of retrenchments. Long hours, shift work, lack of safe transport Majority of workers women with young women as casual and short term contract employees SACCAWU formed in 1975 the biggest union in the retail, hospitality and catering sectors with a membership of Agriculture – low wages, difficult working conditions, insecure employment History of extreme levels of oppression and exploitation of farm workers by farm owners High rates of domestic violence and alcoholism High numbers of women doing seasonal work Sikhula Sonke formed in 2004 with a relatively small membership of 3400 and organising in the Western Cape Labour Research Service & Gender at Work 6

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8 Health Care – poor working conditions, low salaries, low morale and high risk with on-going fears of exposure to HIV & Aids and multi- drug resistant TB Devaluing of care giving work – equated with reproductive work Community frustration and anger at lack of service delivery – directed at health care workers Face of the health care worker “female nurse” HOSPERSA was formed as a nursing association in the 1950’s and became a trade union in 1994 with a membership of Labour Research Service & Gender at Work 8

9  Why the 4 unions were interested in participating in the Gender at Work Action Learning Process 9 Labour Research Service & Gender at Work

10 The Gender at Work facilitators in South Africa describe their mission as: “…searching out ways of working that will help the effects of our work to resonate more deeply in the quality of women and men’s everyday lives, relationships and work - We attempt to support sustained activism and initiatives to create new cultures of equality” Our starting point is to build the power of individuals to engage in sustained collective actions which have the potential to shift existing behaviours and institutional norms. Personal change is a key to organisational processes 10 Labour Research Service & Gender at Work

11 Construction – controlled by large companies with a myriad of subcontractors Small number of permanent workers with increasing numbers of workers on limited duration contracts Regarded as a male dominated sector with employers and fellow male workers -entrenched patriarchal and sexist attitudes to women workers Women employed on limited duration contracts doing low paid, unskilled work BCAWU formed in 1975 with a fluctuating membership of One of 2 key unions organising in the sector the other is the National Union of Mineworkers Labour Research Service & Gender at Work 11

12 Whole being – situated learning that goes beyond rational or intellectual capacities and works with the body, heart, mind -as a challenge to patriarchal binaries of a separation between mind/body and public and private Relationship cultures – that encourages deep and honest reflection on experience towards developing creative strategies Learning spaces to overcome historical silencing – learn skills of reflection, deep listening to many voices, dialogue and skill to challenge in appreciative ways Examining practices of power – one’s own relation to power – Power within at an individual level, Power with at a collective level and Power to at individual and collective level 12 Labour Research Service & Gender at Work

13  Reasons for engaging with the GALP 13 Each of the 4 unions were searching out new ways of working with gender equality making them more interested and open to collaboration4 In all the unions some process of broader organisation development taking place Members of each of the unions had developed some kind of relationship of trust with Gender at Work and/or with the LRS Labour Research Service & Gender at Work

14 SACCAWU Forerunner in working for gender equality and women’s rights Landmark parental rights collective bargaining agreements Male dominated and women continually struggling for voice Priority to get more women into the union leadership Committed and passionate worker gender activists working with national gender coordinator Concerned that old established ways of working for gender equality had become entrenched and they sought to renew their energy Process of organisational renewal and offered an opportunity to bring gender equality to the union’s core Saw GALP as an opportunity to try out new approaches Gender coordinator and gender structures led the change team 14 Labour Research Service & Gender at Work

15 Sikhula Sonke Newly formed trade union setting up organisational infrastructure and procedures Saw Gender Action Learning process as an opportunity to help build union in line with their commitment to advance women’s empowerment and worker control Sought to build members self-esteem, deepen their capacity for self- management and challenge the institutionalised perception that farm workers particularly female farmworkers incapable of doing anything for them selves Saw the potential for realising their goals through GALP Key members of the national executive committee led the change team 15 Labour Research Service & Gender at Work

16 BCAWU Interested in challenging men’s sexual attitudes and behaviours Concerned with increasing the number of women and women union members – women make up 6 % of members Group of BCAWU leaders who were open and willing to look at their own practices, critically analyse strategies for challenging men’s attitudes and behaviours and interested in finding innovative strategies for increasing the number of women in the union. Interest in engaging with a diverse group of peers in the GALP Education committee led the change team 16 Labour Research Service & Gender at Work

17 HOSPERSA Process of rebuilding with the union extending its campaigns beyond the normal union concerns of wages A focus on ‘taking into account the workers as a whole person’ and a process of ‘regaining the dignity of the nursing profession’. Placing the issue of equality on the union’s agenda Using dialogues ‘Lekgotlas’ to get voices from below A willingness to confront organisational challenges openly and reflectively Education department led the change team 17 Labour Research Service & Gender at Work

18  GALP Process 18 Labour Research Service & Gender at Work GALP Process

19 18 month to 2 year process with 3 (3 or 4 day) peer learning residential workshops and in-between mentoring Gender Action Learning processes made up of diverse groups of organisations GALP up till now has between 4 and 6 participating organisations Each organisation selects a change team or 3 or 4 people i.e. the change agents to lead the organisation in a change project towards achieving greater gender equality Organisations encouraged to select change team members to represent the diversity of their own organisational system Gender at Work facilitators work directly with change team members at in some cases work with the broader sections or the organisation 19 Labour Research Service & Gender at Work

20 Orientation meeting – where the change teams learn about each other “Hearing our stories meeting” – held separately with each organisation at the organisations office. Through storytelling and collages facilitators encourage reflection on the history, culture and programmes of the organisation and on the conditions and contexts of women’s and men’s lives. Ideas for the change project are generated. Tai chi movement to release tension and free up energy for new understanding and action, increase a sense of playfulness introduced in “hearing the stories” meeting. First Action learning workshop – organisations introduce their organisation to their peers drawing on what they have learnt from the “hearing the stories” meeting. Labour Research Service & Gender at Work 20

21 Labour Research Service & Gender at Work 21

22 Analytical framework for gender equality organisational level 22 Individual Women’s and men’s consciousness Mindset, consciousness, commitment and feelings Informal Access to resources Competencies, skills and benefits Formal Internal culture and deep structure Worldviews, shared values, traditions and beliefs Formal rules, policies Policies, laws, processes and governance Systemic Labour Research Service & Gender at Work

23 23 Labour Research Service & Gender at Work

24 Work with honest communication, supportive space, appreciative enquiry - focussing on what is being done well, feedback from peers Second Action learning – change teams share what they have done, reflect on lessons learnt, get feedback, work with concepts and processes in working with personal and organisational power, revise change projects Third Action Learning Workshop – tell stories of their change process and identify factors responsible for changes and how changes came about Mentoring – support in between the action learning workshops 24 Labour Research Service & Gender at Work

25  Organisational change projects 25 Change projects were developed as an experiment – “a slice of the broader action” Smaller and more manageable pieces of action allowing for on-going reflection An opportunity to test out assumptions and actions and to reflect on the outcomes of these actions and to make changes Felt conflict between deeper and longer term analysis and quick fixes to problems Labour Research Service & Gender at Work

26 SACCAWU Develop women leaders in a mall committee Develop a new union structure that enables an alternative form of building women’s grassroots leadership Sikhula Sonke Strengthen second layer of leadership capacity of Branch Executive Committee members to deepen democracy within the organisation and ensure it is member controlled BCAWU Develop a strategy of recruiting women to join the union, encourage them to take leadership positions, improve employment conditions for women and challenge mind-sets of men and women regarding women’s place in construction and in the union HOSPERSA Develop a worker-driven union where workers voices are amplified, empower the gender forum to help create a gender-sensitive trade union where care work is valued and where the union in turn can influence the broader society’s attitude toward reproductive work 26 Labour Research Service & Gender at Work

27  Key outcomes of the GALP 27 Labour Research Service & Gender at Work

28 New ways of understanding and working for gender equality SACCAWU – Strengthened mall committees – which provided a space to try out new approaches of working for gender equality. Sikhule Sonke - Significant strides in building a second layer of mostly women leaders and was more able to grapple with the everyday practices of power in relation to accountability, attitudes, access to resources and sharing responsibilities. BCAWU –Strategically using opportunities for organisational culture and personal change HOSPERSA – team members challenged to reflect deeply on their organisational culture, their day-to-day challenges and role of structure in limiting “sisterhood”. 28 Labour Research Service & Gender at Work

29 Reinvigorating/re-inspiring commitment Sharing stories, challenges and dreams about the intertwined nature of work and home life with a supportive group seems to have helped to renew flagging energy and inspired creative action. Renewed passion and energy 29 Labour Research Service & Gender at Work

30  Challenging trade union silence and complicity in gender oppression 30 Labour Research Service & Gender at Work

31 All change teams saw the need to experiment with alternative models of power and alternative structures to break the silence Gender Action Learning process brought in tai chi, drawing and storytelling to subvert the male dominated environment. Tapping into the whole person enabled a relaxed and more introspective environment. As a group they began to feel that could remain individuals with their specific needs, ideas and challenges but also with a collective strength that enhances their analytical and strategic thinking. Sharing across organisations enabled participants to challenge some of their own prejudices and beliefs 31 Labour Research Service & Gender at Work

32 SACCAWU – Working with mall committees that bring together workers and particularly women across companies together in spaces where they are able to speak more freely about their day to day lived experiences. Sikhule Sonke – process of strengthening the BEC helped to create new layers of women leadership very directly in touch with the day to day challenges of farm workers BCAWU – through the education committee started bringing women workers together in “safe spaces” where the focus shifted from “educating them” to facilitating sharing of experiences and strategies HOSPERSA – is building on the Lekgotla “dialogue” process to open similar dialogue spaces in for e.g. constitutional meetings e.g provincial congresses 32 Labour Research Service & Gender at Work

33  The process makes clear links between personal and organisational change – “Being the change you want to see”. 33 Labour Research Service & Gender at Work

34 SACCAWU – examples of feeling empowered to leave abusive husbands – no longer victims Sikhule Sonke – examples of dealing with issues like alcoholism, HIV, domestic violence BCAWU – openly discussing patriarchal and sexist behaviour of union leadership HOSPERSA – change team members questioning and challenging their own leadership styles and consciously attempting to change the nature of their relationships in the private and public lives 34 Labour Research Service & Gender at Work

35  Practical concerns of women continue to be improved 35 Labour Research Service & Gender at Work

36 SACCAWU Even with large scale retrenchments - in 2012 a far reaching parental rights agreement has been signed between SACCAWU and the wholesale company MAKRO Sikhula Sonke Access to toilets in the vineyards improved Access to electricity indicated an improvement in the living conditions of workers. On one farm, workers won the right for a stoep – so that a wheel chair could go up into the house. Women trade union leaders have protected workers’ rights to public holidays and in some cases secured increases in pay for overtime work. Organisational rights and access to subscription fees Farm owners are less able to evict workers Increase in paid up membership. 36 Labour Research Service & Gender at Work

37 BCAWU Increase in the visibility of women on construction sites BCAWU change team is reporting an increase in the placement of women in local companies and the skills training and upgrading of the jobs that women hold. More visibility of health and safety issues that are particularly related to the needs of women for e.g. access to toilets Intervention to ensure the granting of performance bonuses for tile cleaners at a company that promised workers bonuses if they completed the job before the allocated time but did not include the tile cleaners in the agreement. The tile cleaners are almost all women and are often “invisible” on the site. HOSPERSA The process of “getting the voices from below” has created a sense of activism where individual workers and shop stewards quickly recognise cases of discrimination and feel prepared to challenge this. 37 Labour Research Service & Gender at Work

38  Creating new norms take a long time 38 Labour Research Service & Gender at Work

39 GALP and the reflective spaces it offers has great potential to strengthen cultures of equality but what can be sustained is dependent on what else is going on in the union at the time. For e.g. Sikhule Sonke had to proactively work against and unlearn the consequences of organisational hierarchy and associated exclusions – had to pay attention to the how of everyday activities Tensions between the paid staff and elected members continue to test them HOSPERSA – for health workers to value themselves and the work that they do – there is a need to continue to broaden the work of the union to in-still a sense of value, pride and dignity and this means challenging the patriarchal system where care work is seen as women’s work and is devalued. 39 Labour Research Service & Gender at Work

40 Ensuring systemic change requires on going and sustained reflection and action. It remains a methodological and cultural challenge for unions to sustain the creation of learning and reflection spaces as part of on-going union organisational culture when the GALP ends. 40 Labour Research Service & Gender at Work


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